At 80 million strong, Generation Y represents a bigger opportunity than their Boomer parents for planners. But members of this generation neither think nor behave like their elders, according to a new white paper.

Members of Gen Y don't trust planners just because they have successfully helped their parents for decades, according to the paper co-published by Wells Fargo affiliate First Clearing Correspondent Services and Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer of the Austin-based Center for Generational Kinetics, which studies generational trends. Instead, they gather information in their own way and make decisions based on what they think is important, the paper claims.

To that end, the authors suggest that smart planners should get to know Generation Y better. They offer the following as central defining characteristics of this generation that was born between 1977 and 1995:

  • They are the most ethnically diverse generation in recent history.
  • They have more college graduates: Twice the number of college degrees were conferred in 2009 than in 1970.
  • They are getting married and having children later than previous generations.
  • They struggle with entitlement after being raised by "helicopter" parents.
  • They are Internet-centric and eschew books and libraries.
  • Many members of Gen Y don't remember a time before mobile phones.
  • The oldest Gen Yers witnessed the Challenger explosion in 1986, which became the first defining event of the generation and taught them about the limits of science and mortality.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991 were the next two defining events for Gen Yers.
  • The most significant defining event for this generation was September 11. It underscored, for them, the smallness of the globe and the idea that international issues are actually domestic ones - and this is an attitude that now influences their views on investing which are fundamentally global.